Posted by: justnaturallyme | August 31, 2008

Marine Science Center

A few days ago, we visited the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, located in Volusia County, Florida. It only opened in 2002 and expanded to include the bird sanctuary in 2004. We had not been there before so this would be all new information for our book, Wild About Florida: Central Florida. We arrived at the Center just in time to join guide, Shari from West Virginia, as she led us on a tour of the Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Center. She was joined in the tour by her feathered friend, Priscilla, an American kestrel, who seemed to enjoy the human attention. The main aim of the bird rescue program is to return the birds to the wild. Many of the birds in the center can never be returned to the wild due to their injuries or because they have imprinted with humans.We were able to observe some of the recuperating seabirds through a one way glass.

The center holds an annual Wings on the Wind Festival in November. Since the center also rehabilitates sea turtles, they also have an annual Turtle Day in April. Usually, rehabilitated birds and turtles are released on those days if any are ready to go.

Shari and Priscilla at Marine Science Center

Shari and Priscilla at Marine Science Center

The day we visited there were just a few turtles in the rehabilitation tanks of the Turtle Terrace, a glass enclosed area where visitors can observe the rescued sea turtles, but the center is equipped to handle whatever is needed. They rescue and return “washback” turtles. Washbacks are small turtles that have hatched and made it safely out to sea for a few months but were blown back amidst the grass and weeds when the winds blow that debris back to shore. Between that, Redtide and injuries due to careless fisherman who allow lines and hooks to get tangled or swallowed by sea turtles as well as birds, the center stays pretty busy.

The exhibit area has a little of everything related to Florida sea and coastal area. A pair of young alligators, seahorses, sharks, fish and reef life to name a few of the exhibits. You can measure yourself against a model of a manatee. You might be visit during an octopus feeding or for the non-squeamish, a squid dissection. Is it a museum? Is it a classroom? Is it a lab? It’s all that and more. It makes learning fun for young and old.

On the drive to the Center, we had to pass the touristy section of Daytona Beach. I was disturbed to see almost all of the souvenir shops selling “live turtles.” Now I don’t usually visit this section of areas I visit so this may be common in other places along the beach, but to me it is reminiscent of the 50s and 60s when  live baby alligators (actually little (caimans) were sold to anyone with the price.  This was a terrible ecological practice and now is decried by almost all. To me the selling of the little turtles is similar. Now I’m not saying they should not be sold in pet stores to responsible owners but selling to tourist who are going to be driving or flying back home the turtles will not get proper care. Like the reptiles of the earlier era, those who do not die from neglect or mistreatment will eventually be turned lose in an area they are not native to and create problems similar to the boa, python, iguana and other exotic species creating now roaming the Everglades and south Florida. I would love to hear other’s experiences and opinions on this subject.

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